If comedy has any true home in video games, it’s in graphic adventure games. From the classic point-and-click titles of yesteryear to the modern dialogue-driven experiences made by Telltale Games, adventure games have been making people laugh more consistently than any other genre.
Amanita Design has built a name for itself making traditional point-and-click adventure games — but not the kinds of ones that make you laugh. The Czech indie studio is renowned for gorgeous, intricately detailed titles like Machinarium, the Samorost series and Botanicula, the first two of which focus on brain-melting puzzles.
But Amanita is going in a different direction with its next project, Chuchel. Although it’s still an adventure game, it has a look, tone and design that has little in common with the studio’s previous work. Comedy, says Amanita, is what Chuchel is all about.
First things first: Chuchel is a Czech word for a “ball of hair and dust,” Amanita told Polygon, and in case you’re wondering how to pronounce it properly, it’s something like KHOO-khel. The title refers to the main character, a literal black fuzzball of energy with orange lips and an orange tuque in the shape of a Hershey’s Kiss. And he happens to be obsessed with a cherry that’s almost as big as he is — a cherry that Chuchel’s villain keeps stealing from the poor little guy.
While the adorable robot at the center of Machinarium made you want to root for him, none of Amanita’s games have focused on a character as much as Chuchel does. Much of the game’s humor comes from Chuchel’s demeanor and personality, which you might compare to the attitude of a small child who’s consumed way too much sugar.
“Chuchel was inspired by an archetype known from comedy movies — he gets angry very easily, acts silly all the time and it’s fun to watch him do pretty much anything,” Amanita told Polygon in an email interview. The studio also cited another source of inspiration: Jaromir Plachy, who is handling design, art and animation on Chuchel, and his dog, Anca.
“While Jaromir can be a bit annoying, the dog is always nice and naive,” said Amanita. “Connecting these features gives you the perfect Chuchel.”
Chuchel’s chase for his beloved cherry is the main thrust of the game, and although it plays out in point-and-click fashion, players probably won’t spend much time hunting for pixels. Amanita said the game “doesn’t rely as much on complicated puzzles as it does on the main character, humor, animation, and sounds.” That’s part of the reason that the studio went with such a bright, pared-down art style for Chuchel — the idea is for you to focus on Chuchel and the creatures around him, rather than getting lost in detailed backgrounds.
In that way, said Amanita, Chuchel “feels like a crossover between a video game and animated short films.” One thing that the game has in common with the studio’s existing titles is a complete lack of spoken or written dialogue; after all, visual comedy is a universal language.
Puzzles do exist in Chuchel, but they’re much easier than in Amanita’s other adventure games: The studio doesn’t want players to get stuck for long periods of time on a single screen, as they might have in Samorost 3. In addition to offering a hint system, Amanita is breaking up the puzzles with levels that “highlight this ‘comedy animation film’ aspect — those are basically interactive gags, hiding no puzzles but focusing on telling a good joke.”
The audio in Chuchel is just as important as the art. If you watch the new trailer above, you may notice that each item, creature and action seems to have a unique sound cue or instrumentation tied to it. The Czech alt-rock band DVA, which won the Independent Games Festival Award for Excellence in Audio with its soundtrack to Botanicula, is producing all the music and sound for Chuchel.
Chuchel, which has been in development since 2012, is scheduled to launch in early 2018 on Android, iOS, Mac and Windows PC. Amanita currently has no plans to bring the game to consoles.